Gareth Bale Scores as Real Madrid Beats Juventus in 2018 ICCAugust 5, 2018
Real Madrid denied Juventus the 2018 International Champions Cup title with a 3-1 victory at FedExField in Landover, Maryland, on Saturday.
After beating Bayern Munich, 2-0, and Benfica on penalties, Juventus entered the match having picked up five of the six possible points. That put it just two points from the top of the standings, meaning a victory would bump it up to first.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid was coming off a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United on Tuesday, its lone match of the tournament to that point.
Juventus got on the board first with an own goal in the 12th minute, but Gareth Bale scored the equalizer just minutes before halftime. Inserting Marco Asensio at halftime proved to be a game-changer for Real Madrid, as he scored two goals in his first nine minutes of action.
Gareth Bale Must Come Up Huge for Madrid in Cristiano Ronaldo's Absence
While clubs may not be playing their top starting XI at the ICC, it's clear that Real Madrid has work to do in order to move on from the Cristiano Ronaldo era.
Fortunately, it still has Bale.
Real Madrid was coming off a performance in which it was able to possess the ball 71 percent of the match, but even that type of ball domination couldn't spark the offense. It managed just three shots on target and one goal against Manchester United.
In that match, Bale registered just two shots, none on goal. That ineffectiveness certainly played a factor in the team's inability to score.
Bale shook off a reported injury, per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan, and reminded everyone on Saturday that he is one of the most dangerous scorers in the world with a beautiful strike late in the first half:
That type of explosiveness is just what Madrid need now that Ronaldo is gone.
Bale, who has been with Real Madrid since 2013, entered play with 21 goals in 39 fixtures. At 29 years old, he could be right in the peak of his prime, which is saying something for a player with his resume.
There is no replacing Ronaldo, but if Bale can stay healthy, he has the talent to ease the transition.
Juventus' Lackluster Offense Proves It Needs Ronaldo
Sure, Juventus entered the match with the opportunity to clinch the ICC on Saturday. However, its offense once again had a tough time getting anything going.
Other top teams at this event have been lighting up the scoreboard, with Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Liverpool each netting seven goals in three games. Meanwhile, Juventus had just three goals in its first three matches.
Andrea Favilli scored twice in an eight-minute stretch late in the first half of the club's opening fixture, and Juventus would not score again until the final minutes of regulation in its next match against Benfica, which forced extra time.
If not for some help, it might not have found the back of the net against Real Madrid on Saturday.
An own goal in the 12th minute gave Juventus the lead, but its inability to possess the ball or create quality looks was its undoing. It controlled the ball just 37 percent of the time and managed just two shots on goal. When Real Madrid grabbed the lead with a pair of goals early in the second half, Juventus just couldn't find a rhythm to respond.
Juventus was able to score just enough early on in the tournament to grab a pair of victories (and five points), but a rough showing against Real Madrid highlighted the need for Ronaldo. Adding a five-time Ballon d'Or winner should provide another dynamic to the offense.
Marco Asensio's Super-Sub Brilliance Proves He Must Start for Real Madrid
With Asensio on the bench throughout the first half, it took Real Madrid 39 minutes to find the back of the net (well, its opponent's net, anyway). Once he stepped onto the field, the super sub provided instant offense.
Asensio scored less than 90 seconds after entering the game on a beautiful give-and-go. He would once again put his name in the box score nine minutes later, albeit with a bit of luck:
International Champions Cup @IntChampionsCup
A fine second half display from @realmadrid completed an impressive turnaround against @juventusfcen. @marcoasensio10 the star with his two goals clinching a 3-1 win for Los Blancos. Tune in to @espn to watch the International Champions Cup LIVE https://t.co/MBihcOxXbV
It's not about how you score; it's about how many.
That effort earned him Man of the Match honors despite not playing in the first half:
With Bale and Karim Benzema, Los Blancos have veteran stars they can lean on. But in Asensio, they have a player who is just 22 years old and yet already has refined skills. In other words, he could be a star in the making.
Per Goal's Dejan Kalinic, Asensio opted to remain with Real Madrid—a club he has been with since 2014—despite drawing interest from Liverpool. And with his playmaking abilities, he should be a part of the starting XI moving forward.
Juventus have completed its set of ICC fixtures, whereas Real Madrid will be back in action on Tuesday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, against Roma.